(over 7k words!!!)
A/N: Thanks for all your wonderful reviews! 8 people reviewed the last chapter, thank-you guys so much! I've decided, this will be the last chapter. All the plans I have for this story have been fulfilled and I can't think of more to do with the plot without it getting out of hand and stupid. Anyway, hope you like this one. Thanks again for those who stuck with it all the way! (I'll answer any questions you have)
Chapter dedication: Nakedmolerat05
Story dedication: My mom, she likes Storm Hawks and loves Stork
Chapter 12: Something Better
Pain ripped through Stork's body as he slammed up against the bridge window. He could feel the Condor falling, and he could only imagine the destruction that would come if the carrier ship hit the wastelands. Straining to stand up, the merb teen took only a moment to look out the window beneath him. The clouds suddenly parted and Stork was faced with the lava crusted earth of the wastelands. If the Condor survived the crash, she would easily be torn apart by the creatures that dwelled below.
As the ship drew nearer to the tainted land below him, Stork began to feel the heat. Taking one of his hands, the merb wiped sweat from his brow and stood precariously on the glass. Reaching up, Stork managed to get a solid grip on the support of the controls. With all his strength, the scrawny merb pulled himself up enough to wrap his arms firmly around the support. With the skinny pole under his arms, Stork reached up for the handles and then remembered that the sabotage crystal had destroyed them.
Frantically, Stork looked around the bridge, trying to think of someway he could get further back into the ship. However, his thinking was cut short as the Condor closed the distance between her and the ground.
There was a disturbing crushing sound at the engines took most the impact. Before the deck was sacrificed with the engines, however, the belly of the ship hit, and hit hard, sending the Condor skidding across the wastelands. Sparks and dirt flew everywhere as the large carrier ship tore up the earth before her. Stork held onto the support pole as best as he could, but knew that the crash was hardly over.
Even though the left engine was completely useless, the right engine was still being fed fuel. It only burned slightly, but the heat was enough to spark the fuel. Immediately, the fuel turned into a fiery fuse and raced towards the fuel tanks. When the flames hit, the tanks exploded, sending the Condor flipping head first across the land. Tossed like a ball, the large carrier ship was smashed and nearly destroyed in its tumble across the wastelands.
Finally, a large pillar of rock was the only thing that stopped the flipping Condor. With one last burst from the right engine, the Condor grew still, her hull torn and battered.
Everything was silent as the Condor fell below the clouds. Every Storm Hawk was silent with shock. They didn't know what to do or how to feel. Stork had saved the Condor from crashing on several occasions, each one impossible for any other pilot to come through successfully. However, this was different. Aerrow could tell by the way Stork hadn't reacted immediately to the Cyclonian battle ships that something had gone wrong on the Condor.
The red head simply sat there on his skimmer, his mind was blank. Several Talons had grabbed Aerrow and were proceeding to bind his hands. They tried to bind Radarr as well, but the small creature still gave them a fight. Aerrow listened as the others were cuffed and tow lines attached to their vehicles.
Then a sudden rush of air blew past the red head as a black skimmer spiraled through the clouds. Momentarily stunned, Aerrow soon realized who had gone past and hollered to the disappearing rider, "Save him Draven! Bring him back!" Then there was pain as a Talon hit him in the gut with his elbow. But Aerrow didn't care, there was still a chance for Stork's survival.
It was dark and an intense heat was all around him. He couldn't breathe, he couldn't move, he couldn't think. All he could do was feel: feel the pain rip through his body, feel the heaviness on his chest, and feel the sorrow that suffused his entire being. He felt a terrible a sense of dread, as if it was truly the end. They had lost… no. He had just lost, there was still a chance for his friends. They needed him… he needed them.
Taking a shaky breath, Stork awoke from his unconscious state. Trying to breath properly, Stork's breath rattled and his body shook with the strain. The floor of the Condor was hot compared to the air around him, which was hazy and filled with smoke and steam. Pushing with his arms, Stork tried desperately to stand up, or at least sit up. But it was a futile attempt. Collapsing back to the floor, the merb pilot turned his stiff neck as best as he could to see what was pressing against his body.
The glass of the bridge window was shattered and shards were scattered everywhere. Several smaller shards stuck into the floor of the Condor, and others simply lay there. Some of the glass managed to cut Stork's legs, leaving small spots of blood. It was obvious that Stork had been cut while the Condor had been rolling, for there were splatters of blood on the wall before the fallen pilot.
Looking higher up with his yellow eyes, Stork's face turned to trepidation. Lying across his back, and piercing the floor, was a large piece of metal that undoubtedly came from overhead. Out of curiosity and concern for his ship, Stork glanced up and happened to find a large hole torn from the ceiling above him. Letting out a sigh of despair, Stork turned his head back to face the doorways and allowed it to fall back onto the heated floor. There was no way the scrawny pilot would be able to lift the crushing metal. "If only Junko was here…"
Stork's head shot up as his ears twitched and focused towards the demolished corridors. There had been a shuffle of debris, the merb was sure of it. Propping his body up on his elbows, Stork strained his eyes to see into the smoky halls. "It couldn't be," Stork whispered to himself, wondering if his wish had come true. Then, he could see a shadowy figure pushing away a large piece of debris and stepping over some more. Becoming exciting, Stork allowed a small smile of hope to come to his face.
But the smile soon fell as the person who had treaded through the debris of the failing Condor came into view. A smiling face with charcoal eyes and dark hair stepped from the flame smoke of the corridor. Draven stood there in the entrance to the bridge, his leather outfit reflecting the small flames that had broken out in small places. His face was contorted with a victorious smile and in his hands Draven held two lumpy sacks.
Dropping the sacks to the floor, allowing one of Piper's unrefined crystals to role out, Draven folded his arms and exclaimed, "Well, well, well, what do we have here?" Letting out a sinister laugh, the older teen stepped forward, his riding boots sending small vibrations through the floor. "You didn't do a very good job at landing the ship, Stork." Lowering himself to one knee, Draven's cold eyes stared into the hate filled eyes of the merb pilot.
With his ears bent back and his face showing obvious hatred, Stork said with a cold tone to his voice, "Yeah, no thanks to you. If you've come for your sabotage crystal, I'm afraid you'll have to search for the pieces amongst the rubble." Draven's face momentarily turned to anger, but this look was quickly erased as he stood to his feet and turned away from Stork. He stood there, his leather covered back turned to his "brother". Draven placed on hand upon his chin and acted as if he was surveying the damage of the crash.
For a few moments, that's how the two brothers stayed. One casually ignoring the pinned merb, the other seething at the one who had ruined his life. Finally, Stork broke the silence, his voice colder and more impatient than before. "Where are my friends?" Acting as if he had forgotten Stork was there, Draven looked over his shoulder curiously. "My friends, Draven, what's happened to them."
Letting out a sigh, Draven nonchalantly spun on his heel and looked down at Stork. With his hands behind his back, Draven put on his most triumphant smile and asked, "Aren't you at all curious about how I succeeded? Or how about how I've been working for Master Cyclonis all along? Hmm? How about I tell you?" The cool, steely nature of Draven's voice angered Stork even further. How could he act so calm when so much was going on or already happened.
When Stork said nothing, Draven pulled back and stared at him. "Apparently, they care for you greatly. Once they saw the Condor going down, they hardly able to do anything else but watch. That was enough for the Talons to grab them and for me to still appear a part of them and race after you. However, my part in this entire thing will be revealed once they see I have returned without you," giving a small chuckle, Draven shook his head slightly, "Amazing how things work out."
Stork looked away from Draven, his face falling to the floor so close to him. His friend had indeed been defeated. Closing his eyes as a new wave of pain came to him, Stork took in another deep, shaky breath and tried to fathom what had happened. Cyclonis had basically won, seeing as Aerrow and the others were the only ones able to thwart her plans each time a new one arose.
The merb kept his eyes closed, even as he heard Draven's boots walk back towards the hallways. However, he opened them slightly when he though he heard a large thud and the pressing of buttons. Looking up as much as he could, Stork found Draven rising from another kneel. Wiping his hands, Draven stepped away from whatever he had placed down and grabbed both bags of crystals. "I wish I was sorry Stork, but the truth is, you deserve this… goodbye."
As Draven walked away from the bridge, Stork's eyes darted back to the dark object that he had placed by the wall. It was a dark box, only a few inches tall and as wide as Stork's hand was long. A panel was at the top of the dark box, green numbers slowly counting down: 57, 56, 55.
With horrible realization, Stork found himself looking at a bomb. Bending his free toes, the merb dug into the floor and tried to push himself from underneath the fallen metal. 42, 41, 40. Finding that useless, he tried pushing back, behind the metal with his sore arms. This was too painful to continue however. 35, 34, 33. Finding himself unable to come free of the debris, Stork stretched his arm for one of the fallen panels, 20, 19, 18. His fingers were mere centimeters from the panel. 3, 2, 1.
Draven's black hair rustled slightly as the blast from the Condor's bridge sent a wave of heat after his dark skimmer. For a moment, the silver streaks glowed orange, then faded back to silver as the skimmer rose higher above the wastelands. Draven's face was set and emotionless, the bag of crystals clunked underneath the back seat. The young man did not look back as his skimmer broke the white clouds above.
Piper nearly tripped on her feet as the Talon shoved her into the dark cell. The slim girl caught herself just in time to turn on the Talon. However, the Talon slammed door shut, leaving Piper to slam against it and pound her fist in frustration. "No!" she called as she heard the door lock and she was left in the darkness. Turning around, Piper leaned against the cold door and slid down to sit on the even colder ship. There was silence, except for the quiet breathing of her friends and the humming of the battle ship's engines.
"Piper, are you okay?" It was Aerrow's voice that reached out to the girl through the darkness. She could barely see anything, but she caught a glimpse of Aerrow's green eyes moving towards her. "Piper," the girl folded her knees to her chest as soon as the boy's hand fell to her shoulder, Piper fell into despair. Folding her arms on her knees, Piper hid her face and broke into an uncontrollable sob.
Aerrow felt his heart tear as he moved his hand across Piper's back and pulled her into a comforting hug. However, Piper pushed Aerrow away and fell back to her tears. "Why?" Aerrow barely heard the word through the cries of sorrow and guilt. The others must have heard it too, for they all shifted a little closer to the two teens, Radarr climbing up on Aerrow's shoulder. "Why him? Why not me?" Then it became clear why Piper was crying, and no one really knew how to answer.
"Hey now, it wasn't your fault Piper-" Junko tried to keep the girl from blaming herself, but he drew back from Piper as she thrust her head up. "Yes it is! You know it is! It's all our faults! We refused to listen… simply because Draven impressed me." Piper fell back against the door again, her arms lay limply at her sides.
Aerrow put his hand back on Piper's shoulder, causing her to look at him. "You're right, we should have listened to Stork. After all, we've knew him a lot longer than we knew Draven. But what's done is done." Aerrow sensed Piper was going to protest, but he squeezed her shoulder to let her know he wasn't done himself. "I'm not saying we should simply forget about this and move on… we will move on one day. What we need to do though is find a way out of here. Don't you think Stork would want us to keep on fighting? Don't you think he would want us to take down Draven?"
Finn, who hadn't said much since they had been brought upon the battle ship a few minutes ago, scooted closer to Piper and Aerrow. "Yeah Piper. I mean, I miss Stork too… it's kind of weird thinking we'll never hear his voice again."
"Or see him smile," Junko whispered through the near darkness of the brig. "Or feel his presence," Piper joined in. "But we can still keep him alive in our memories. I mean… he's not really gone as long as we still care for him, right?" Aerrow put on a soft smile, although he knew it was just about impossible for Piper to see, and squeezed her shoulder even more. "That's right…" He whispered. Piper smiled back, mostly for herself then for the others.
"Right! Then we should try and find a way out of here!" Junko exclaimed, his voice not yet lifted from grief, but definitely sounding better. Aerrow pinpointed the wallop in the darkness and spoke towards him. "Since they took our weapons and searched us for crystals, it doesn't look like we'll be getting out easily. We'll have to find some flaw in the design of this brig. Junko, do you think your knuckles can take finding a weak spot in the walls?" "I'll try!" the wallop replied, standing from his spot. The next indication of his location was a loud thud against the metal.
Nodding, the red head then turned to wear Finn was wiping away his own tears in the darkness. "Finn, I'm going to need you to keep lookout with Radarr. Stay by the door and listen as best as you could. Piper, stay with them and look for cracks or weaknesses in the door. I'll be searching for something we might be able to use. It's a new ship, there has to be a loose piece of metal somewhere."
"Right," Finn and Piper said at the same time, while Radarr gave an excited cry. Aerrow leapt to his feet and found the wall behind Piper. He then began to work his way around the room, feeling for a prick or bump to indicate loose metal or some anomaly. Then he stopped, his mind had just thought of something, and as the room filled with thuds and scuffles, Aerrow voiced his thought. "I wonder where they took Draven?"
The others stopped in their attempt to escape. They too had been wondering the same thing, but none of them had really thought of it. Once they Draven return from the Condor with nothing but crystals, they had been furious with him, only to have the young man laugh in their face. The whole thing had been explained while Draven handed the crystals off to Ravess (just as Draven had predicted).
"Dude, as long as I get to kick his butt before this thing is over, I don't really care," Finn spoke. His statement was followed by agreements from the other four Storm Hawks. Aerrow smiled, "I thought so," and went back to work. Time passed slowly, and the Storm Hawks had been working on their escape for at least four hours. Finn was beginning to doze off, Piper kept banging her fist in frustration, Radarr's ears were beginning to droop and Junko's punches had become considerably softer and less frequent.
Collapsing to the floor of the cell, Finn found himself in the far corner and tired from being on his feet for the past few hours. "Man, I wouldn't have thought listening took so much out of yah." Junko settled down next to his friends, his knuckles aching, but not yet bloody or broken. "I guess its working in the dark. Takes more effort to see and stuff," there was an agreeable chatter as Radarr collapsed next to the two other boys.
Aerrow leaned against the wall and slowly sat on the cold, metal floor. His feet were aching and his hands felt stiff from having them spread out against the wall. "Well, it could be worse…" Aerrow trailed off, thinking of how they could be dead. However, his mind did not stay on this thought too long as Piper sat beside him. "At least we're together, they didn't split us up!" Piper said, putting a hand on Aerrow's shoulder, then removing it and finding a comfortable positioning against the wall.
Silently agreeing, Aerrow closed his eyes as the others trailed off into sleep. Yet the Storm Hawks were unable to get much further then the gates of dreamland as a stream of light suddenly parted the darkness. Aerrow opened his eyes and saw an awoken Finn, Junko, and Radarr in the direct beam of light. The light grew brighter and brighter until the door to the cell was completely open. Piper and Aerrow took this chance at freedom and jumped at the dark figure whom had opened the door.
Draven walked down the empty corridor of the Cyclonian battle ship. Two Talons walked on either side of him, each looking at him in awe. To them, he was a hero, a hero they had long sought. He was the one to defeat their greatest enemy: the Storm Hawks. There was no doubt in their minds, nor Draven's, that this hero would be greatly rewarded. Looking to either side of him with his dark, charcoal eyes, Draven smiled and allowed his pride to suffuse over his entire being. He had come out triumphant over the one person he hated the most in the world, and now he was being praised for it.
The two Talons suddenly stopped as the three of them approached a large door with the Cyclonian symbol engraved on it. The two Talons turned to face the middle of the hall and take guard of the door as Draven moved forward and pushed the black doors open, entering the room beyond.
The room Draven had stepped into was considerably larger than any of the other rooms on the ship. It's high ceiling was decorated with maroonish, glowing crystals. Most of the room, however, was empty space and a large throne like seat was found on top of a dais . In the chair, at the moment was a refined, clear crystal. Standing in front of the throne, Ravess seemed to be waiting for the crystal to do something. The woman glanced only for a second at Draven as he stepped beside her.
"What's going on?" Draven asked, staring at the crystal as Ravess did. "We're about to give our report. I suggest you don't screw this up. You maybe in Master Cyclonis' favor, but it's only for the moment…" Ravess' voice was cool and washed over Draven like a chilling breeze. However, the young man knew better than to show any sign of weakness to the fierce Cyclonian warrior.
As Draven and Ravess stood there, the crystal started to become milky and it's contents swirled in a counter clockwise motion. Then, faintly, a dark figure began to form on the floor before the throne. Slowly, the form gained in darkness and the dark eyes of Master Cyclonis were visible in a matter of seconds. Both Draven and Ravess bowed their heads as the young leader before them looked on with skepticism. She obviously was not convinced of the report sent to her via radio.
"Master Cyclonis, I have some good news. The Storm Hawks have been defeated and one of them is permanently out of our way," Ravess looked upon the projected face of her leader and allowed some triumphant to show on her sharp features. However, Master Cyclonis did not seem pleased, but instead turned her attention to Draven.
When the girl's voice finally came, it sounded broken and doubled. This was a simply complication with the crystal, sounds were slightly distorted. "Tell me, my hired mercenary, the status of the Storm Hawks. All the Storm Hawks." Despite the distortion, Master Cyclonis' voice was still filled with great evil and intimidated the once beaming Draven.
Looking straight at Master Cyclonis, Draven dryly reported, "Navigator, engineer, sharpshooter, mission specialist, and Sky Knight are all currently detained in the brig. Pilot - dead." Draven said the last one with a smile. He couldn't help it, it just felt so real now that he was actually officially reporting it to Master Cyclonis. And yet, when Draven looked at Master Cyclonis, he did not see her enjoying his enthusiasm over the situation. Instead, she looked angry and ready to kill Draven just by staring at him.
"How many Storm Hawks is that accounted for?" Master Cyclonis went on, not taking her narrow eyes off Draven. "Six," Draven said, now confused why she was asking such a question. Master Cyclonis did not explain herself, but instead nodded in confirmation, then her face softened and she seemed to be thinking hard. "Funny, because you see I received a report from Ravess' men just a moment ago. According to them, and her, that number was a little lower." Master Cyclonis' face turned hard and angry again.
Draven stepped back with surprise, his eyes darting from Cyclonis to Ravess. One held an utterly infuriated look, while the other was smug and confident. "You see, it only takes one Storm Hawk to ruin everything," just as her form was about disappear, Master Cyclonis' distorted voice said one last chilling thing before disappearing, "Take care of him for me Ravess." And then, she was gone.
Draven stepped back from the throne, his face contorted in confusion and anger. As he backed away, Ravess turned menacingly and pulled out what seemed to be a crystal baton. However, when the woman pressed in a button, the staff extended and the maroon crystal glowed to make its master look even more sinister. "Didn't I warn you Draven."
Aerrow dropped to the ground, kicking the legs out from beneath the person in the doorway. There was a small thud and soft "umph" from the person as they fell into the hallways. Piper leapt over Aerrow and pinned the person to the ground, putting her hand onto the being's neck. "C'mon, we gotta go!" Piper yelled over her shoulder as Aerrow stood and motioned for the others to move. Piper suddenly recognized something odd about the neck she was grasping: it was soft and covered in fur.
Sharply turning her head towards the person beneath her, Piper felt her heart skip a beat as she looked down into the pained, yellow eyes of a shocked merb teen. "Stork!" Piper exclaimed with joy. Immediately, the others rushed to the door as the girl pulled the merb up and into a strong hug. "I thought we'd lost you!" Piper held Stork close and allowed the tears to run down her cheeks as she felt the merb's arm come slowly up her back in a hug as well.
Before the merb could say something back, both the teens were suddenly lifted out of the hallway and into a crushing hug by Junko, who now was crying with joy as Aerrow, Finn, and Radarr looked at their friends in awe. "I'm so glad you're okay! I missed you!" Junko worked out between the tears. And as Piper laughed from the overwhelming joy, Stork winced and tried to break free from the hug, gasping, "Yeah, I missed you too Junko. But if you don't mind, I've faced doom at least twice today…"
"Oh!" Junko let go of his two friends, dropping Stork to the floor. Not expecting to be dropped so suddenly, Stork lost his balance and his already weak legs just gave out from underneath him. He sat there on the ground for a moment as the others beamed down upon him. For a moment, Stork just took in all their faces. He was overjoyed to see all of them unharmed and okay. He had feared the worse after Draven left, wondering if they would be sent to Cyclonis right away or not.
Finally, Aerrow held out his hand, "Glad to have you back." Stork nodded and took the red head's hand, allowing the Sky Knight to pull him to his feet. Aerrow patted Stork on the shoulder, just to make sure he was really there, then stared into the tired eyes of the merb. Aerrow smiled softly at his friend, but before he could ask the question on his mind, Finn popped in front of Stork and asked, "Dude, you looked like a goner, how'd you get outta that?"
For a moment, Stork stared blankly at the blond, then he quickly explained what had happened from the time the Condor was hit by the battle ships, to when Draven set the bomb. "A bomb! Where did he…" Piper said, the girl had been listening intently the entire time. Stork shrugged, "I don't know. But I was lucky enough to grab a panel of metal to block most of the blast-" "What do you mean most of?" Aerrow asked, now realizing how bedraggled the merb looked. Most of his fur was ruffled and his hair was a mess. Sweat greased his features and there were cuts and scraps all over his body. Even his uniform, which was torn in several places, looked better than himself.
Stork leaned his head down then pointed to his ears. The fur had been taken off of nearly all of the ears and on the one with the earrings, the skin was badly burnt. "Fortunately, my ears are as bad as it gets. Although my arms are sore from dragging that old skimmer from the hanger," at the quizzical look his friends gave him, Stork explained the rest of his escape from certain doom. "I remember seeing the battle ships before the Condor crashed. I figured they would take you there and head for Cyclonia. I had an old skimmer in the hanger that wasn't too badly damaged in the crash. A few quick repairs and I soon caught up to the battle ships. Although it was tough getting in the ships, I lost the skimmer in the process, I still made it undetected."
"Well, I'm glad you're okay, under the circumstances. Can you walk okay?" Aerrow asked, as the others seemed unable to speak at the moment. Stork nodded, "Yeah, I've been crawling through the ship. I've got her rigged to blow and if we don't get going, we might get stuck behind!" Stork had almost forgotten his activities of the last few hours, but his sudden remembrance was backed up when a few yards down the hall, a large explosion blew away the ceiling. "Now would be a good time to go."
Aerrow nodded and then he looked left, then right. The red head was completely unsure where to go. He had only seen the corridors for a few seconds. "This way!" Piper called as she began running to the left. Aerrow readily followed, Stork running just in front of him. Finn, Junko, and Radarr were close behind. Piper ran through the halls as if she had lived on the ship her whole life. She seemed to take all the right turns and lead the others in the right direction, which was considerably hard with the explosions from the broken battle ship all around.
Suddenly Piper stopped before a fork in the halls. "I don't know where the hanger is from here!" she shouted in frustration. Luckily, Stork had just come from the hanger and he grabbed Piper's arm and dragged her down the right corridor without stopping. The others followed and as soon as the girl could get her footing, Stork let go of Piper's hand.
As they approached the hanger, Talons could be seen running all over the place in confusion and panic. Ignoring the many Cyclonians, the Storm Hawks charged through the crowd. Or at least, they ignored them until Piper tripped over something and fell to the floor. Aerrow stopped just in time, causing Junko to skid to a stop and Finn to crash into the wallop. "Piper, are you okay?" At hearing the others, Stork had turned around in time to see Aerrow helping the girl up.
"Yeah, I'm fine, but I don't think the same goes for the person I tripped over," Piper looked down at the person who had caused her fall and her face twisted in disgust. "On second thought, I don't really care for him!" Aerrow pulled Piper back, just in time to keep her from kicking a fallen Draven in the stomach. The others looked around Aerrow and glared at the young man, who was now stripped of his leather outfit in simple jeans and a T-shirt. "C'mon, the hanger's just down this way." Stork said, urging the others on.
Aerrow held onto Piper as he stepped over Draven, keeping the girl from doing the man any more harm. Junko was also careful not to step on the fallen traitor, but Finn was not so kind and purposely stepped on the man's wrist, causing him to recoil in pain. As Finn walked past him, Stork simply stared at his adoptive brother, lying there in pain. His clothes were a mess and face was bruised and batter. A deep cut ran along his cheek, marring his handsome face. Was he feeling sorry for this traitor?
No. Stork shook his head and turned to catch up with his friends. But before he jogged over to them, his hurting ears managed to catch one thing. "Help me," Stork's face suddenly softened and became somber as he rounded a corner and caught up with the other Storm Hawks. Surely Draven could handle himself. But how many would survive the crash of the large battle ship? Well, no one would be on the ship, all the Talons had skimmers. But Draven didn't seem as if he could walk by himself…
"Go on without me! I'll meet you in the hanger. You have about three minutes left until she's set to blow. If I'm not there in time you leave without me!" Stork shouted as he turned around and headed down the corridor as fast as he could. Piper turned, with Aerrow restraining her, "Stork! Wait, where are you going?!"
"Just go!" Stork shouted as he disappeared around the corner. Aerrow felt a sting his chest and he realized what Stork was doing. Taking in a deep breath, Aerrow spoke to the other Storm Hawks, who seemed confused on what to do. "We carry on. C'mon, we have to move!" Reluctantly, the others followed the now running Aerrow. Piper took one last look at the corner that Stork had disappeared behind before turning and following her teammates.
Stork couldn't believe what he was doing, but he knew why he was doing it. It wasn't because Draven was his brother, or that he felt sorry for Draven. He was returning because he was not Draven and he would never be Draven. Coming to a halt before the fallen rider, Stork bent down and slipped his arm around Draven's chest. With a heave, the merb managed somehow to get the young man to his feet. "C'mon, you have to walk!" Stork hissed, keeping Draven on his feet.
Draven pushed away from Stork, and supported himself against the wall. "What are you doing?!" he hissed in disgust and confusion. "Why aren't you running?" Draven asked, his voice heavy and wheezy. It was obvious some one had done a number on the older teen.
Ignoring Draven, Stork put a hand on the man's shoulder and looked into his dark eyes. "We have to get out of here. The ship isn't going to be in the sky much longer. Now I need your skimmer and you need my help to get to the hanger. Either we do it together, or I'll go on without you and get to my friends before they leave…" Draven looked into Stork's eyes. Then he broke out a smile and shook his head. "Alright, alright," he said, trying to stand on his own. Stork simply nodded and used one arm to support Draven. Draven placed his own arm around Stork's shoulders and leaned on the merb as little as he could.
With jerky, but quick, movements, the two "brothers" moved down the hall and were at the hanger door in no time. However, the other Storm Hawks had already escaped, leaving Stork to find Draven's skimmer. Placing the older teen down by the door, Stork ran through the hanger, searching the rows of skimmers. Apparently, the Talons each had a spare skimmer, but only one key. Stork needed Draven's skimmer.
Suddenly, a pain ripped through the merb's body, causing him to stop and bend over in agony. The cuts on his legs were stinging like hell and it was becoming increasingly hard to walk on his weary and now bleeding feet. Taking in a deep breath, Stork fought back the pain and continued on his way, despite the feeling that he was walking on broken glass.
Finally, the scrawny teen spotted it. It's deep black with silver streaks now clearly stood out amongst the maroon skimmers of the Cyclonians. Giving a wince of a smile, Stork ran forward and grasped the handlebars of the skimmer. Pulling it out into the aisle, Stork quickly moved the cycle along the other skimmers and towards where Draven was resting.
The older teen seemed to brighten considerably at the sight of his precious ride. Rising slowly to his feet, Draven took the skimmer from Stork as soon as the carrier pilot came in reach. Swinging his leg over the machine with a great wince, Draven pulled the helmet off the seat and put it on just as Stork clambered onto the back seat. "Hold on," came Draven's muffled voice. Wrapping his weak arms around Draven, Stork prepared himself for the worse.
Draven started up the engine, just as the merb's sensitive ears perked as much as they could without hurting. "Quickly, the engines are gonna-" before Stork could finish, the engines sent waves of fire all over the ship, destroying the glory of the Cyclonians. The flames ripped through the walls and soon exploded into the hanger. Just as the fire breached the hanger walls, Draven hit the gas of the skimmer and sent them racing through he spare skimmers, the flames hot on their tails and consuming the Cyclonian skimmers.
Piper watched the first Cyclonian battle ship as part after part of it exploded. Pieces of the first ship crashed into the second, causing yet another evacuation. Maroon skimmers burst into the skies, completely ignoring the five Storm Hawks who had found refuge upon a nearby cliff. Junko, Finn, and Radarr all sat on their vehicles, waiting to go rescue Stork if need be. Piper stood on the edge of the cliff, watching anxiously for the black skimmer of Draven. Aerrow stood behind her, his own apprehension matching hers.
"I-I don't see him!" Piper said, turning back to Aerrow, who face had fallen to the ground. "He has to make it, I can't loose him again!" the girl cried, turning back to the burning battle ship. Aerrow stepped up to Piper and placed an understanding hand upon her shoulder. "Stork's already avoided death twice today. I don't think one more time is going to be any problem for him," as he said these words, Aerrow doubted them. No matter how many times you cheat death, it gets you in the end.
Then, the engines of the battle ship exploded, sending plumes of smoke into the air as it headed for the clouds below it. "No!" Piper shouted as Aerrow squeezed her shoulder and the other three raced to the edge of the cliff, but didn't take off. "Look!" Finn called, causing everyone to turn back to the horrific scene of the falling ship. From the smoke, there rose a dark figure: it was a skimmer. "They're alive!" Junko exclaimed as he caught Stork's green fur behind Draven's beaten body.
A battered Condor hovered above the terra of Atmosia. It's hull once ripped, was crudely welded back together and the crushed engines had been hammered out enough that they worked enough to keep the carrier ship in the air. Below, in the city people gathered around as five of the Storm Hawks carried parts to the ship.
A tall, dark skinned girl held a metal panel above her head, blocking out the sun. As she approached the ship, she lowered the panel into a pile. Sighing, Piper swiped the sweat from her brow and looked up at the ship. She was glad it was okay, after all, it was her home. Smiling, the girl moved from the pile of panels to a nearby bench.
The shade felt like a reprieve from the heat. They had been working all morning and as the afternoon came into view, each of the Storm Hawks had taken a break. Finn had taken off towards the pool, Junko and Radarr close behind him. Meanwhile, Aerrow decided to stock up on supplies while Piper was still undecided about what to do.
Sighing, the girl looked towards the Atmosian tower. Somewhere beneath it was the sixth member of the Storm Hawks.
Sitting down before the plastic window, Stork looked into the hardened face of his brother. Draven's face had become hollow looking and the cut on his cheek had formed a scar. His hair was untidy, but still held a cool effect. Draven held his usual cocky smile as his charcoal eyes met with those of the merb. "What are you doin' here?" Draven's once cool voice had changed over the past three weeks. It was no longer smooth and confident, but hoarse and defeated. "I came to visit you, like I plan on doing every month," Stork replied, leaning towards the small holes in the plastic.
Rolling his eyes, Draven leaned back in his chair, causing the front legs to go up. "Why the hell do you still want to visit me? After all I've done, I d' think you'd want nothing to do with me." Draven leaned forward, causing the chair to place all four legs back on the floor, and leaned forward so he stared Stork in the eyes as close as he could. "Unless you've come to gloat or try to save my soul or something, I can't see a reason for you being here."
"I'm here because mother saw this coming and before she died of her sickness, she told me something. Something meant for you!" Stork said, now catching Draven's attention. Although Draven had hated the way his mother babied Stork, he had still loved her. And if there was one thing he regretted most in his life, it was not returning to his sick mother after his fathers death. "Go on," Draven said.
Stork nodded and pulled away from the glass. "Before she died, mother took my hand and looked into my eyes. We were alone in the house, which was good because she intended her words to only be heard by her children," Draven's eyes held a soft look, that clearly showed his love for his lost mother. "Her voice was hoarse, but her heart was still pure. She spoke to me, and she said 'Watch your brother. Watch him grow and watch him do great and terrible things. I know Draven, my son, I know him better than he knows himself. When he gets lost on his path to great things, I want you to guide him Stork. Do you know why? Because you will live a small life. You will have small things and carry out small acts. But you will find something better. You will find love, and friendship, and those who would gladly die to save your life. Through them, you will do great and wondrous things. Now tell your brother this, and help him find the right path again.'"
Draven stared blankly at his brother, taking in all that had been said. Then his face contorted in anger and he lunged at Stork, only to find his face pressed up against the plastic. With both hands curled into fists, Draven yelled at the merb who simply sat there, indifferent. "You bastard! I knew mother favored you! You warped her mind and took advantage of her weakness! You turned her against me in death!"
Stork ignored these words and slowly stood from his seat. His once pained and tired eyes now only showed pity as he looked upon his struggling brother. "I will be here the day you are released and I will try to help you find what I have found. For mother…" Falling back to his chair, Draven glared at Stork. "And what persay have you found?" Before turning to leave, Stork gave him two words. Two words that summed up his life, two words that meant love, friendship, loyalty, and home. "The Storm Hawks."
A/N: I'd like to thank everyone who had reviewed and I hope you liked the ending. It's the longest chapter in the story and I hope it gets the most reviews. Hint, hint! Anyway, to acknowledge everyone who reviewed at least once by November 26:
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Thank-you again for reviewing and I had a good time writing this story. I hope you enjoyed and hopefully you will read my future Storm Hawk fanfictions. Anything you are unclear about, then please don't hesitate to ask. I'll answer any questions you may have. Thank-you, and hope to be hearing from you again!